Saturday, December 23, 2006

11th Angkor Wat International Half Marathon 2006

I Can't Believe I Took This Picture. Isn't It Beautiful? Posted by Picasa

What? 11th Angkor Wat International Half Marathon 2006

Where? Angkor Wat, Cambodia (Where else could it be?)

When? 17 December 2006, 6:30am

Why? Charity in support of the landmine victims and education/ prevention of AIDS

How Long? 21km

Beautiful Temples Along The AWIHM 2006 Route Posted by Picasa

Sues’day (Hello in Khmer)

Angkor Wat International Half Marathon (AWIHM) is a wonderful way to cap the 2006’s running experience. I have always wanted to run Angkor Wat International Half Marathon since I have heard of it a couple of years ago. When AirAsia was having a promotional blitz in April 2006, I managed to secure some bargain price ticket to Cambodia. My plan was to fly to capital, Phnom Penh and either take a cruise or coach up to Siem Reap, where Angkor Wat is located.

Since that day, I have been doing research about Cambodia during my free time. Bought a Lonely Planet guidebook, which I regretted when I saw the same book, was being peddled at USD4 in Angkor Wat. I bought mine at RM96 or USD27. Grrrr…..Anyway, Lonely Planet is a simple but good guide book for Cambodia.

I flew to Phnom Penh with Tan and CL on 13 Dec afternoon from LCCT KLIA. The journey took about 1 hr 40mins. We checked in to Dara Reang Sey Hotel right in the middle of Phnom Penh.

In Phnom Penh, we roamed the city on foot, visiting the tourist spots like Wat Phnom, The Royal Palace, The Silver Pagoda, The Independence Monument, The National Museum and Russian Market. I skipped the Genocide Museum and Killing Fields, as I was too chicken shit to see the horror of war up-close.

Anyway, after spending two nights in Phnom Penh, we traveled north to Siem Reap by bus. The travel alone took about 6 hours. The road condition – bad! Some of the local people traveling in the bus seemed to have no respect for others’ personal spaces. There was one dude who kept standing up and did yoga poses in the aisle. They yak loudly too. I was glad that I brought my Sony MP3 player along.

Chip Testing at Racekit Collection Centre (City Angkor Hotel) Posted by Picasa

We went straight to Angkor City Hotel to collect out race kits after check into our hotel in Siem Reap. No hassle. We can check the functionality of our Championchip at the counter. It was reassuring to get that “beep” sound once we tap it to the receptor.

Temple hopping was in the itinerary. Off we went to Banteay Srei about 1 hr drive from Siem Reap on the next day. From there, we hop from temple to temple till we all “templed out”.

Dinner supposed to start at 5:30pm but it did not, until 1 1/2 hr later. Yawn! Posted by Picasa

At the half marathon eve dinner (my very first one, I must say), we were seated in front of a bunch of Japanese runners comprising of housewives and one young chap. The conversation revolved around running. (What else can we runners talk about? Heheh!). Running is a very popular sport in Japan. The young chap (can’t remember his name) has a PR of 3 hr for a full marathon. He ate a plate of rice, vegetable and fruit only, even though it was a buffet. We, on the other hand, pigged out like nobody’s business at the buffet spread. Heheh!

There were speeches (in Japanese and Khmer) and copies of the translated speeches were available at the table. There was clapping. There were toasts. There were more speeches. I felt like I was in Japan, not Cambodia.

Ms. Yuko Arimori giving a toast. Posted by Picasa

I had the privilege to meet Ms Yuko Arimori. Very graceful and pretty. She is the representative director for Heart of Gold (one of the organizer of AWIHM). She is a marathon runner – silver medallist at Barcelone and Bronze at Atlanta. Incidentally, her birthday fell on 17 Dec, the same date as the AWIHM. So, there were cake and candles. We didn’t get to eat the cake though. Heheh!

Apsara Dance to welcome the participants of AWIHM Posted by Picasa

Apsara Dance – One of the reasons I splashed USD15 for the dinner. I was not disappointed even though I think the show could be a little longer. There were two performances – the first one was performed by a group of younger dancers dressed on gold coloured costume, followed by a group of older (not old, mind you) dancers. Spellbinding! No wonder apsaras (celestial dancers) were carved everywhere in the temples of Angkor!

Beautiful Sunrise @ Angkor Wat, before the start of the AWIHM Posted by Picasa

17 Dec 2006 – Der day I have been wanting for! I arranged our tuk-tuk driver to pick us up at 5:00am for the sunrise at Angkor Wat. I had to pay a surcharge of USD3 on top of a day hire of USD10.

The tuk-tuk driver was puzzled when we all turned up in shorts and vests, while he was all wrapped up in a jacket. He advised us to wear something warmer. As I didn’t bring a jacket, I just wore a T-shirt on top of my vest.

It was a cold morning. It got even colder as our tuk-tuk started moving. Bbbbbrrrrrrr…..I could feel all the hairs on my legs stood up. Heheh!

It was still dark when I reached Angkor Wat. The moon was still up there in the sky. Gingerly, I walked into Angkor Wat. As it was dark, I had to rely on others’ torch lights to lead the way. I headed to the lotus pond and waited. Had to jump around at times to avoid freezing to death. Heheh!

At about 6:00am, the sky beginning to lit up. Hues of purple, orange and red decorated the sky behind the unmistakable Angkor Wat towers. Lovely!

Grrr....Raring To Go. Posted by Picasa

At 6:15am, I had to scurry off to the starting point even though I wished I could have stayed a little longer to view the complete sunrise.

We were set off at 6:30am. (Insert a thousand Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!…..here) (That’s the sound of Championchip on the mat. Heheh!).

AWIHM Runners in Action (Part 1) Posted by Picasa

The climate was cold. I wished I had worn something warmer. However, as the body warmed up, I kinda like the cool climate.

AWIHM Runners in Action (Part 2) Posted by Picasa

The specially established route took us from the Central Sanctuary of Angkor Wat (Start & Finish Line), passing a series of temple ruins namely Prasat Kravan - Banteay Kdei/ Srah Srang - Ta Prohm - Victory Gate - Bayon - South Gate - Basie Cham Krong - Phnom Bakheng - Ta Phrom Kei - and back to the front of the Central Sanctuary of Angkor Wat (Finish Line).

Water, I need water... Posted by Picasa

They provided mineral water in 500ml bottles, every 2.5km. As most of runners cannot finish the bottles at one go, many of the unfinished bottles were left by the roadside. The bottles didn't stay there for long, as they were picked up by the village kids.

Welcome To Angkor Posted by Picasa

See, the mineral water bottles were collected by the village kids. Teach them about recycling young.

I'm a slow runner but I must at least overtake this guy in the bear suit. Heheh! Posted by Picasa

I saw this bear earlier at the start point. Before I could try to take his photo....Poof! He disappeared into the throngs of runner in front. I caught up with his furry tail at about 3km mark. I guess the bear head proved to be too heavy for him.

Distance marker on the road at every 1 km Posted by Picasa

Where's the temple? After running 9km, I begin to wonder where the temples were. There was no temple in sight. FYI, the first temple is around the 10km mark. The name is Prasat Kravan. A simple yet beautiful brick temple. Then, more and more temples can be seen along the route.


Yeah! Minah Rempit giving me a thumb up! Posted by Picasa


Please invest on a good pair of running shoes or you will end up like this dude. Posted by Picasa

My Lil' Supporters Waiting for Hi-Fives! Posted by Picasa

We were never short of support from the spectators, especially the children. They waited. They clapped. They cheered. They smiled. They laughed. They just want you to slap their little hands when you pass by. Some even ran along with me. How adorable! A few of them even gave me some bracelets for free. I felt so honoured. In return, I gave them some Visit Malaysia Year 2007 pins that I brought along.

Sense of smell also being stimulated by the falling flowers. Posted by Picasa

Only if you run slowly you would be able allow your senses to appreciate the surroundings. The picturesque sceneries. The smell of the falling flowers. The sounds of the birds singing and children laughing. (Insert What a wonderful world by Louis Armstrong here…..)

Running through The Victory Gate of Angkor Thom Posted by Picasa

I don’t really care about my timing. I stopped many times to take photographs while catching my breath. The run was really a unique experience. It only gave me a brief view of the temples but definitely a better understanding of how large the complex is and how great the Khmer civilization once was.

Mr.Bear finishing the AWIHM Posted by Picasa

The run finished at Angkor Wat. I was shocked when I didn’t see the Championchip mat when I cross the finished line.What??? They said there was a power failure and they had removed the mat. Then, another blow - No medal! What TF??? Then, another blow - No printed certificate! No electricity. TNS!!!! I felt so disappointed, heart broken. (Insert sobbing here!)

I certainly didn’t pay my hard earned USD40 for this! Anyway, the only consolation to my broken heart is that the money will go to charity (it better be) and the running experience in the World Heritage Site is really priceless. I calmed down when I saw the guy in the bear suit happily swagger towards the finish line. Heheh! I did beat the bear!

After the AWIHM, a quick shower and breakfast, I headed back to spend the rest of the day exploring the sprawling landscape of Angkor. Truly one of the more amazing places I have ever seen.

The Summary:

What kept our motors running?

1) Run for a great cause – to support landmine victims and AIDS prevention/ education.

2) It started and ended at Angkor Wat – great place to view sunrise before the run starts.

3) One of the most scenic runs that I have ever participated. We passed by most of the remarkable ancient ruins in the “small circuit of Angkor”

4) Great sunny weather with cool breeze. (Not humid at all)

5) Lots of supporters along the route. Most of them were waiting to give you a hi-five, especially the kids.

6) Kids offering little souvenirs like bracelet to you. Aw…How Sweet!

7) Adequate water station

8) Clear distance markers and directions.

9) The great Khmer food after the run. (Not provided by the organizer but we just love Khmer food especially the Loklak and Amouk)

What rub our nipples the wrong way?

1) Eve dinner started 1 ½ hour late.

2) No medal (Even though it was stated in the confirmation e-mail that all finishers are entitled to a commemorative finisher medal each)

3) No timing. No chip, No time. But I have a chip, but no timing due to blackout (no electricity). Don’t they have a spare generator or something?

4) No printed certificate with timing. (No electricity)

5) Dusty road. (Especially when big vehicles like tour buses passed by).

6) No baggage storage area. We had to leave our stuff in our tuk-tuk.

No Medal? It's OK. I've got these souvenirs from my lil' AWIHM Supporters. Posted by Picasa

I have prepared a series of tips and guides in my travel pages at virtualtourist.com.

Runwitme’s Cambodia Itinerary

Runwitme’s guide to Phnom Penh

Runwitme’s guide to Siem Reap/ Angkor Wat

Runwitme's comprehensive temple-by-temple guide to Angkor Wat International Half Marathon 2006 route. It is an invitation to you to “run with me” virtually in the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon 2006. Each tip is accompanied by a picture. Click “more picture” if you wanna see more.

Don’t forget to rate my tips if you find them useful. I would love to hear comments from you too. Hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed building the pages from scratch.

Ar kun (Thank You in Khmer).

Monday, December 04, 2006

So Sick-a-pore

My Life Savers - Bye Bye Fever patches, antibiotics, Uphamols and Water. Posted by Picasa

I was worried that I need to cancel this trip. I wasn't feeling my best after the 12 hours walk. I guess I must have gotten a chill from sleeping on the cold marble floor at the hall. I experienced fever every night. At times I was burning inside. At times I could feel that I was trapped in a freezer. I have seen doctor three times in a week. The first two time, they loaded me with fever pills and antibiotics. Seeing the condition has not improved, I went back to my panel clinic for another check up. The doctor told me that I have got a serious throat infection - with pus (yuck!) and all. I was placed under a stronger new antibiotic treatment and was given an antibiotic jab at the butt. (Why can't they jab me on the arm instead?) More paracetamol was prescribed. The doctor told me that as long as the infection didn't subside, I would experience fever throughout. His advise - take 2 fever medication every four hours. When I told the doctor that I would be going to Singapore on that night for you know what, I could see utter shock of disbelieve in his eyes.

I meet up with the rest of the gang at KL Sentral on Friday night. Initially I have booked a seated ticket (for cost reason), however due to my health, I had to get another sleeping birth ticket. Thank god, BW managed to get a ticket for me last minute. The train left on time at 10:00pm. As it started to move, I began to eat my dinner - McD Chicken porridge in the train.

After dinner, I could feel my temperature was rising. I immediately slapped a "ByeByeFever" patch on my forehead and downed two Uphamol with water. Lights out.

Johor Bahru...6:41am Posted by Picasa

We reached JB around 6:40-ish. Malaysian Immigration check was done on board. Bumped into Mr. Khoo Chong Beng (The Organiser of the Penang 12 Hr Walk) again at the Singapore Immigration checkpoint. We took the same train last year as well.

We arrived in Tanjong Pagar Train Station around 8-ish. Took a bus (90 cents) to Chinatown, where we would put up a night at a rented apartment near People's Park. We decided to book the place because it was cheap. It worked out SGD17.50 per person per night. Furthermore, the MRT station is literally at the doorstep.

After freshened up, we went to Marina Mandarin to collect our race kits. Bumped into Bose at City Hall and spotted Ai Ling wondering around at the Marina Shopping Mall. Collection of race kit was painless. Love the gym bag. They ran out of M size vest, so I was asked if I wanted the size S or L vest. I took the S one and it fits. I am not as fat as I think I am...Heheh.

Coffee And Porridge Posted by Picasa

We left Marina Mandarin Hotel and walked acrossed to Suntec City Mall for lunch. Our first stop was Joaquim, but the place was not open for business till 11:00am. So, BW and I wondered to HMV at Citylink Mall to check out the CDs and DVDs.

We went back to Joaquim about 11-ish. This place serves excellent buffet porridge. I was very happy with porridge as I try not to eat something hard – make swallowing very painful. After a bowl of steaming hot porridge, I could barely keep my eyes open. I was so sleepy. Thank God, there is a Starbuck Café nearby. I wolfed down another bowl of porridge with the coffee and some desserts. No more sleepy…Time for a movie!


Dessert Posted by Picasa

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